Asylum Seekers

Gillen, Sally
April 2003
Community Care;4/17/2003, Issue 1468, p18
Critical inspections of removal and reception centres have increased fears about the government's strategy on asylum seekers. Fears about the welfare of asylum seekers being detained in immigration removal and reception centres were confirmed by the publication of highly critical inspection reports into five of the eight centres of Great Britain. Lack of access to mental health services was also noted, staff had little or no training in race relations and very poor legal advice was offered to detainees. Alison Harvey, refugee policy manager, says that although the reports recommended that children should remain for no longer than seven days it is" shocking" that they are being locked up in centres at all. Breaches of human rights, including the random strip searching of asylum seekers in rooms lit only by fluorescent tube lighting, fill the five reports. All removal centre staff must be trained in the specific issues that affect immigration detainees and aware of the cultural, national and ethnic background from which they come. The Prison Service, if it is told to hold detainees, must ensure that removal centre staff are specifically recruited for this function. Protocols should be agreed for the release of information to the immigration authorities and detainees' representatives, if such information is relevant to the fitness to detain or to the detainee's asylum claim, and the action that should follow.


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